Westwood High football history begins tonight in Winnsboro when the rookie Redhawks open their inaugural season against Fairfield Central.
“It’s the first varsity football game and it’s a very exciting thing for the players, the coaches and the fans,” said coach Rodney Summers, who worked as an assistant coach at Richland Northeast for 17 seasons after starting his career under Chuck Jordan at Conway.
Westwood, the fifth high school in fast-growing Richland District 2, has more than 80 players on the varsity-junior varsity levels and more than 50 on the B team.
“The numbers, frankly, surprised me a little bit, but we’re thrilled to have so much interest in being part of the program right away,” Summers. said “We don’t have many players with any meaningful varsity experience and we only have 12 seniors. We’re undersized now, but we have a lot of speed and quickness, and that’s what we’ll have to take advantage of this season.”
The Redhawks will play for two seasons at the Class 3A level in Region 4, but the early season schedule is going to be a major challenge with games against the four other district 4A teams — Blythewood, Spring Valley, Ridge View and RNE.
“No question, the first five games are going to be difficult,” Summers said. “I’m not saying we can’t compete, but we’re concerned about staying healthy enough to be competitive once region play begins.”
Summers served as the offensive coordinator at RNE for seven seasons, and he has installed a similar spread attack at Westwood with an emphasis on the option running game.
Initially, Davis King and Chris Patterson, two players coached by Summers at RNE, were dueling for the starting quarterback role, but Patterson suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Summers said three players have emerged as team leaders in camp — safety Tyreque Bell, wide receiver Vyncint Smith and center Eric Fogle.
Former Spring Valley players Miquelle Canady and Anthony Friday are a rarity on the new team because they have played downs of varsity football. Canady could be the go-to guy in the offensive backfield, and Friday will be an asset on defense at linebacker or tackle.
However, Friday’s status for the opener is up in the air. He’s been out for three weeks after suffering a concussion.
Westwood’s first game at its on-campus stadium is Aug. 31 against Richland Northeast.
The new stadium is the third district football facility, but the first that will not be shared with another district school.